David Bowie

Stage

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The second of two inessential double live albums David Bowie released in the '70s, 1978's Stage is a different beast than its 1974 predecessor, David Live. That album captured Bowie in a transitional phase, sliding from glam to stylized soul, while Stage was recorded in the thick of his Berlin phase with producer/collaborator Brian Eno, and Stage is an attempt to translate that sleek, angular, arty studio-bound sound to the live arena. This means not only are Low and Heroes given live treatments, but about half of both Ziggy Stardust and Station to Station are given new arrangements here. On these older tunes, the new flair -- the synthesizers and Adrian Belew's tangled, mathematical guitar -- doesn't sound sleek, it sounds chintzy and cheap, not quite fully formed. The newer songs suffer from this, too, and that's because the performances are too direct and the recording is too crisp and clear, removing the dark, foreboding mystery and assuredness that made Low and Heroes thrilling, compelling listens. Consequently, Stage winds up as a curiosity, and not a very interesting one at that.

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